To Whom It May Concern,
Yesterday, September 1st, Florida’s Governor DeSantis relaxed his restrictions for visitors to all long-term care facilities, including assisted living, following the recommendation from his Task Force. The relaxed restrictions allow facilities to have “Essential Caregivers” and “Compassionate Care Visitors” on property interacting with residents in a hands-on manner. They also allow facilities to have general visitors on property, but in a socially distant manner. Our community has made the decision to continue with our visitor policy that only allows medically-necessary personnel or staff on property, without exception.
As a community, we began aggressively implementing policies and procedures to prevent COVID-19 from contaminating our property very early on. We are also fortunate that we designed our community years ago to be dominantly outdoor and open-air, which at the time was to aid in preventing the spread of diseases like the seasonal flu, but a critical feature during this pandemic. We believe these items combined are why our residents in our community have never contracted COVID-19. By continuing with our conservative approach, we believe we have the best odds for keeping our residents healthy and safe. We have earned the trust of our community to keep loved ones safe and do not intend to betray that trust with haphazard, premature action to lower our guard in the face of an extremely dangerous pandemic to seniors. To give the gravity of the situation some scale, more than 40% of deaths in Florida due to COVID-19 have been linked to long-term care facilities.
The governor’s revised policy allows for two essential caregivers, two compassionate care visitors, and five general visitors. Visitors are not required to have a negative test, any proof of quarantine, and no formal training beyond what the facility can provide. Given our license is for 71 beds, this would allow 639 people into our community that have not been in quarantine and do not have a negative test result. Of the 639 authorized visitors, 45% of them would be allowed to have physical hands-on contact without social distance.
We currently do not have our residents isolated and allow safe socialization in our community. By allowing a visitor on property, we are not just putting one resident at risk, but our entire community, which includes residents, staff, medical personnel, and all of their families. This is not a risk we are prepared to take at this time, especially as Florida is still the state with the 3rd highest number of cases in the country as well as 3rd highest number of cases in the last 7 days.
We sympathize with the families of our communities because we know it is a very difficult time that is compounded by not being able to visit in a way that was allowed before. From the beginning, we have done everything possible to accommodate families to make the process easier. Most notably, we have constructed an outdoor visitation area that allows for an in-person visit with no obstructions except for a socially distant six feet. This area has benches, umbrellas, wind chimes, hanging orchids, painted flower murals, and the shade of our giant Keitt mango tree! It even has speakers for the music that we project throughout the entire property. We are very open to suggestions for how we can improve this visitor area to enhance the experience.
A big reason the governor relaxed his policies is because of the mental health decline in a lot of the long-term care population, which can manifest itself in a physical health decline as well. Many communities around the state do not allow for any type of visit and some families haven’t seen their loved ones since February. Some of these communities have been stricken by COVID-19 and residents are isolated to their rooms. For these reasons, we understand why the governor made the decision to allow visitors into communities in an effort to curtail the decline.
Since we have been completely virus-free for the duration of this pandemic, residents have been able to socialize, participate in activities, listen to live music, and even enjoy food from local boutique food trucks in a safe way. We believe that this, combined with the fact that we have been able to provide a safe and physical visit since the beginning, is why we have not had our community experience this same mental and physical decline that others are seeing. For this reason, we do not believe the risk-reward dynamic allows for us to adjust our approach that has worked to the highest degree thus far.
We are confident that all of our community is sure that we’re doing everything in our power to keep a safe environment in a very dangerous time. Our approach is dynamic and changes based on facts and data, as it has been from the beginning. Should anybody have questions or would like to voice their opinion, I’m happy to take the call myself if you call my office at 941-412-4748. I trust our community will both understand and respect our decision as it is in the best interest for our residents health and safety. Just for fun, attached are some photos from the last few months for you to enjoy! Stay safe everyone!
A Banyan Residence | Assisted Living Resort
100 Base Ave. East, Venice, FL 34285